Till I Die – 18 Songs You Should Listen to

What follows is a list of songs with a brief description. I found this in my mailbox while searching for something unrelated. This compilation was intended to be published here 3 years ago but we never got around to it, largely because we didn’t really care. This is just a bunch of songs that the authors find particularly awesome, therefore the absence of a presumptuous Rolling Stone styled heading ” The Greatest Rock Songs of all time”. They might or might not be. This was three years ago, so while I still like all the songs here, my perception and understanding has changed, but fuck that.The first 11 songs descriptions are clumsily described, displaying a very coarse understanding of music and some of the facts are wrong, so yes, those descriptions are written by me [Baba T] and the rest have gramatically correct english and a geeky turn of phrase [El Bajista]. I haven’t taken El’s permission to publish this so his picks might or might not have changed. While I still love Zep and Ramones, I would probably put Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia” in here too.

Instead of pictures of ugly dead men with moustaches, I threw in a few tepid pictures of pornstars in the mix. I couldn’t format the post properly, so I tired of doing that in between and just posted this shit. Whatver. And to just replicate every “Greatest Songs Ever!!” list ever made on this idiotic internet, the first song is [a Bonham drumroll please]…………

Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

With this song the Zeppelin brought together the perfect mix of their brand of hard blues, theatricality, emotion and epic-ness to make one of the best songs ever. All things that make Zeppelin so good are here – the slow build up with Plant’s teary, airy-fairy vocals, then the introduction of Bonham’s clear as crystal, no-nonsense drumming and the cathartic solo of Page dominating the end. This is one case where you should believe the hype. As if the studio version wasn’t enough, they gave us the even more awesome, live version of this song on The Song Remains the Same, which sounds extremely spontaneous, with Page’s guitar hero antics suitably modified. The raw emotion of this song is seared on all our hearts forever.

Deep Purple – Child in Time

Writing about what makes this song click is a bit like trying to explain why 2 and 2 make four, but what the hell, I’ll try. Never mind all those people who try to emphasize that In Rock was perhaps the prototype for all of hard rock/metal. Never mind those people who only look at Ritchie Blackmore’s mind boggling, finger bending acrobatics on the guitar, which are pretty awesome in their own right. Never mind the high pitched, “I would die if I tried that” screams of Ian Gillan which gives this song all the urgency of an express train. Never mind Jon Lord’s atmospheric keyboards. Just look at it as an awesome melody. You will realize it as the greatest song in all of rock.

Doors – Break On Through (To the Other Side)

The opening groove immediately gets you, and when Morrison barely seconds later breaks into the now iconic refrain of “Break On Through…..” you are hooked forever. One of the catchiest and horniest songs in the Doors catalogue, this is Morrison and the rest of band at their peak, what with the keyboard solo by Manzarek in the middle. People often prefer Light My Fire from the debut, and I won’t put up a fight, but tell me, which song is the best when drunk? This one undoubtedly, because you can friggin sing along for a good 3 minutes or so, dammit !! This is rock’n’roll with a capital R and that’s what this list is about.

Jethro Tull – Aqualung

Jethro Tull were such a goddamn versatile band that it’s tough for a novice like me to even begin explaining their influences and style. But that’s not we are about, damn you. We are about pinpointing the most sounding right things in the universe (we also don’t stick very strictly to grammar) and the solo that kicks in at about 3:27 is one of the most awesome things I have ever heard in rock music. The funny thing is that for a so called progressive rock band, Tull did not have that many pretensions. Aqualung is a simple, almost a good old timey rock’n’roll song with a wonderful “dee dee ree, de de de re reee” melody. The lyrical content is somewhat disgusting which makes me like it even more. Top of the class, Ian Anderson!! May your many flutes, trombones, mellotrons flourish for ever more!!

I’m Eighteen – Alice Cooper

Need I really explain why this, this, song is so essential to your rock’n’roll listening experience? “I’m Eighteen / I get confused every day/Eighteen/I just don’t know what to say/Eighteen/ I gotta get away”. Isn’t this what was so good about rock? The spontaneity, the immediacy, the pure joy of being young? The simplicity, the airy-headedness?   Plus that harmonica line is pretty sweet.

Motorhead – Ace of Spades

Remember those times when your parents used to get pissed off because of Motorhead and you loved it? Remember when you had the authorities breathing down your neck and you recited “The pleasure is to play, makes no difference what you say” in your mind? The pure rawness, punkiness, ass-kickiness that is epitomized by this song is beyond description. Its like you just saw what rock’n’roll looks like, and it looked….awesome.

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath

You all know why this track is on the list. Any track that lays down the blueprint for metal deserves to be on the Top whatever, and surprisingly I’ve hardly seen this figuring anywhere in these types of compilations. You could argue that Supernaut has a catchier riff, and that Symptom of the Universe is less tedious and more varied or that Paranoid is the signature track, but nowhere, and I mean nowhere, do the spookiness, heaviness and the Ozziness come together with better effect. Plus, that Iommi solo which just smells of the blues and Satan at the end just seals the deal for me. Plus War Pigs can’t come on this list because they rhymed “masses” with well….”masses”.

Ramones – Blitzkreig Bop

If minimalism is an art form (which according to me it is especially in music), then Ramones can be considered the high priests of the same, and Blitzkreig Bop would be the anthem or whatever it’s called. Three chords, straightforward strumming, dirty production (which was certainly not on purpose), jangle jangle, bang bang, blitzkrieg bop!!!…and repeat. I suppose you could change this for almost anything else on the debut, Beat on the Brat, Sheena is Punk Rocker, etc. But come on, the chorus is unforgettable. I had a hard time picking a song from their catalogue, but nothing beats early Ramones.

 Pink Floyd – Time

It was hard to pick this ahead of Echoes, plus strictly speaking, Dark Side of the Moon is more than the sum of its parts, but man, Time. Most people would pick Money as the grooviest thing they have ever done, what with the Waters bass line and all, but look at this, its almost as if the guitar notes are bouncing. The way in which they use the sounds of clocks and then just segue into the opening beats to make way for the catchiest song they have ever done is just off the hook. The lyrics never got better than this, nor did the vocal lines, which you can’t stop singing. Yes, the song is depressing, but there ain’t no happy Floyd song anyway, so what the hell……..

King Crimson – Starless

When Robert Fripp actually wants to write songs he is an impeccable songwriter. When he doesn’t…..but that’s a discussion for another day. Their seminal album Red consists of only great songs and Starless is the greatest of them all. The melody is so sad it is surreal, the notes so plaintive that it is impossible to hear this when the sun is shining. The highlight is a one note solo played by Fripp for what seems an eternity, just increasing the intensity, note by note. The release, when it does come, is in the form of a jazzy outbreak of chaos which ultimately leads us back to the first theme. This has to be heard to be believed.

Simon n’ Garfunkel – Bridge over Troubled Waters

The best thing about the songs of Simon and Garfunkel was the heartfelt emotion. So whether they sang about a person who was emotionally moribund or whether the song was about their little town, they could actually make you feel the nostalgia or sweet despair, as the case may be. This song is about friendship, and I’ll be damned if everyone hasn’t cried at least once while listening to this song. Also, this might be Art Garfunkel’s best vocal performance ever, ever, and believe me you, that means something. This was also the guy who sang songs like America, Scarborough Fair, The Boxer, Mrs Robinson, I am a Rock, Cecilia, Feelin Groovy, Bookends, Sounds of Silence, Homeward Bound, A Most Peculiar Man……….

The Who – My Generation

This song established, first and foremost, what Rock n’ Roll is all about. Thrashing about and justifying it by shouting. I first heard it properly about a year and a half ago. This song, released in ’65 has more energy than any modern metal band you care to mention. There is so many firsts to this. The crystal-clear battle cry that is, “I hope I die before I get old”. Keith Moon’s drum destruction. And ladies and gentlemen, the first modern bass solo by John Entwistle. It’s a holy shit moment of a song which caught my then Dream Theater and Metallica saturated ears completely off guard. And then blew them apart. Straight up righteous rock ‘n roll will never come to life again. It will all be nostalgia and pastiche. Thankfully, Motorhead are still around and undead.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Little Wing

I am sure this is going to be controversial. Purists will say, why not ‘Purple Haze’, or ‘…Watchtower’ or his other major hits. All I can say is this. Listen to ‘Little Wing’. Just listen to it. Its heart-wrenchingly beautiful, with that long intro, and that vocal melody. And it ALWAYS (and I am not being over-sentimental here) leaves me feeling slightly sad. It’s too short. By god, it’s too short and it leaves you hankering for the replay button. Again, I’m going to have a little more a cry here. The first time I heard the first line (“Well she’s walking, through the clouds/ with a circus mind, that’s running round”), I SWEAR I was in love. Anybody who says that ‘Purple Haze’ is better, remember that Jimi’s songwriting is his biggest gift. And this is his biggest gift to us of all.

Metallica – Master of Puppets

Here it is the greatest heavy metal song ever. Atonal with that riff in F. Incredibly melodic in its middle section. Lyrics that established Metallica as the thinking man’s metal band. And a guitar solo that will grow you an extra pair of testes and increase your drinking capacity 10x. Everything that Metallica has come to mean to its millions of fans can be encapsulated in one bloody song. And a check on Wikipedia confirms writing credits to all four members of what is widely considered the greatest lineup: Hetfield, Ulrich, Burton and Hammett. Need I say more?

The Red Hot Chili Peppers – If you have to ask

So why did I choose this controversial one? Why not ‘Californication’, ‘Dani California’, or ‘Bloodsugar’? It’s because this song defines the Peppers. See, the uniqueness of the Peppers stems not from the Funk-rock hybrid itself, but from the fact that the guitar and bass are rarely doing the same thing. The guitar is up high, and the bass is down low. That orgasmically Spartan guitar riff is offset with the sound of sex, if it were a bass line. Then there is the rapping, which is still Anthony Kedis’ pièce de résistance as a vocalist. And there is the slammin’ drumming of Chad Smith. But to really know why this song defines the Peppers, check out the live versions on YouTube. The chemistry between Flea and Frusciante is electric enough to power Japan.

The Eagles – Hotel California

Our list tries to collate the most memorable songs around, not rank them. But if there were to be a first among equals, this would be it. The chord sequence has always been one that dances around the rules and regulations of strict dots-and-numbers music theory. Trust me, I’ve tried to figure it out with my caveman skills in the major scale. But it just sounds so right, and so soulful, that no one has ever been able to come up with a long sequence that really works as well. The whole song is based on that, and the abstruse lyrics, which we may want to interpret till the cows come home. The rest is there to make the chords look good. Even the solos. For me, it’s all in those magical chords.

Don McLean – Vince

Yes, an ‘American Pie’ deals with god knows what and might be Mclean’s crowning achievement, his Mona Lisa. But this is his Vitruvian Man. Its universal in the pastoral splendor. Complex imagery through simple words doesn’t come better than this. And never has. This is the first song which actually bought a bit of a tear to my eye. They say that every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. Dead wrong. This one is the truest portrait of the sitter I’ve ever perceived.

Funkadelic – Maggot Brain

“Play like your mama just died,” said George Clinton, and Eddie Hazel played. He failed COMPLETELY. What he did do, however, is play like the world was coming to an end, and he was lamenting the loss of art, love, life, laughter and everybody’s mama. So epic was the solo, that Clinton drowned out the rest of the band, and even its dominant bass player, Bootsy Collins. All that was left was guitar solo 101. A warts n’ all sound that is more feeling that notes and more pulse than rhythm. A guitarist friend of mine said the best thing about ‘Maggot Brain’ was that it’s extremely simple. Maybe that’s it. Shredders, listen to this and weep at your inability.

-Baba T


One thought on “Till I Die – 18 Songs You Should Listen to

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